Running Cold


Week 5 of marathon training comes to a close, and what a week it was! I raised about fifty more dollars due to the wonderful guys at Comicazi – you rock!

The weather took a turn for the frigid, with highs of 11° for much of the week. When the mercury drops, people are suddenly surprised to hear that one continues to run outdoors. “Is that safe?” seems to be the typical response, the asker looking faintly aghast at the prospect.

The fact is that it’s perfectly safe if you prepare appropriately and use some common sense. The morning there was black ice on the roads, I ran home from work instead. A simple chill, however, can be defeated with proper layering! The lovely C at Posit Design had a post this week about how layering is necessary even just to commute to work properly, and the principal is the same for running in icy temperatures, with a few important specifications.

The first is that you’re going to be about 20° warmer while running than you are just bopping around doing your holiday shopping. There’s no need to pile on the layers until you look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. The second is that those layers should keep the moisture off of you – cold and wet is deadly. For those of us running in the Boston area, 2-3 layers on the top, depending on how cold it is, are plenty. On Thursday, the day of my coldest outdoor run, I wore:

1. A hat! This is key as the wind was fierce, and even through the hat my ears became earsicles. Next time I will add a thermal headband.
2. Gloves. Totally necessary – you can lose up to 30% of your body heat via the extremities. In addition I have terrible, terrible circulation and when my fingers get cold the blood rushes out of them, leaving a faintly cadaverous look to them that’s probably an indicator of Raynaud’s Syndrome and seems slightly dangerous. Better to wear the gloves – they’re easily removed if you get too hot!
3. On Thursday, I wore 3 layers on my core. If it’s a bit less cold, 2 are fine. The first was a form-fitting Brooks long sleeve shirt. It wicks away moisture so that sodden clothes aren’t hanging on your body, trapping cold, and the tightness prevents my skin from being exposed. Over that I wore a looser long sleeve shell, still wicking, to add a bit of warmth. The final layer is an Adidas wind breaker – totally needed to repel the bitter wind that was slicing through me.
4. On the bottom, tights are almost always enough. I like the Under Armour tights with elasticized ankle cuffs to keep out the drafts.
5. Socks – it is so key to have wicking socks – again, wetness is the enemy in the cold. I like these Thorlos. They’re cushy and the height adds a bit of extra warmth on the legs.

Once you’ve got all the right gear and are off and running, the cold becomes a minor nuisance. Still, I do feel pretty tough when I brave such conditions. As I ran along on Thursday, I was stopped at a light with some other women who were out running. One woman said to the other, “Look, someone else is out!” The other woman said to me, “Thank you for running today! I thought we were the only ones!” I just smiled and told her it needed to be done, but it was nice, like we were part of a secret group – those who know it’s not so bad.

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2 responses to “Running Cold

  1. Great tips! I plan on doing all of my long runs outside regardless of weather. That said I am glad I got it out of the way Friday night! I am not sure I would be happy running in the snow today!

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